CHICAGO (CBS) — Could Rod Blagojevich’s sentence commutation threaten efforts to bring other politicians to justice?
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole addressed that question with a former prosecutor on Wednesday.
Ald. Ed Burke (14th) still occupies the same seat on the Chicago City Council that he’s held since 1969, but he is under indictment on charges of corruption. His office was raided in November 2018, with agents seizing computers and other evidence.
No longer on the Council floor is former Ald. Danny Solis. While also under investigation, Solis reportedly wore a wire to record conversations with Burke and perhaps others.
“It is hard to investigate corruption,” said former U.S. Attorney and current Northwestern University Law School professor Juliet Sorensen.
Separately last month, former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to taking a quarter million dollars in bribes, and is cooperating with a sweeping federal corruption probe in Illinois.
Department of Justice statistics show since, 1976 metro Chicago has had 1,750 corruption convictions – more than any other U.S. city by at least 200.
But could President Donald Trump’s commutation of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption sentence somehow weaken the outcomes of Chicago’s ongoing investigations?
“I took it to be something of a power play by the president,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen worked for seven years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago. She does not believe the commutation will impact the resolve of investigators.
But repercussions aren’t out of the question. For example, Gerasole asked Sorensen if the Blagojevich commutation could muddy the psyche of a potential juror.
“To the extent that it sends a message that public corruption is not a serious problem or shouldn’t be taken seriously, perhaps,” Sorensen said.
And here is a final question tonight that no one can really answer. Federal authorities continue to seek out witnesses in their ongoing corruption probes – will the fact that Blagojevich didn’t serve all his time convince those with information that it’s not worth coming forward?